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State of Technology Review – Algae Bioenergy

An IEA Bioenergy Inter-Task Strategic Project

Significant opportunities exist to take advantage of the high photosynthetic efficiency of algae, both macroalgae and microalgae, for bioenergy/biofuels production. Diverse algal biology and inherent cellular constraints around strain production capacity coupled with large differences in projections about production scenarios for both micro- and macroalgae production impose substantial challenges to extrapolating productivity reported in the literature to outdoor cultivation performance over the long term. The energetic considerations of algal production, which are presented in the body of this report, provide a framework to consider the maximum boundaries for areal algal biomass productivity and absolute biofuels/bio-products production potential given physical and geographical constraints. Clear economic and sustainability challenges exist to develop large-scale cost-competitive algal biomass-derived biofuels. While absolute economical considerations on biomass and fuel costs are a function of variables that vary with physical, geographic and socio-economic environments, which remain difficult to compare, there are opportunities to integrate production of algal biomass (both micro- and macroalgae) and apply a biorefinery approach to derive additional value from products coproduced along with gaseous or liquid biofuels. Considerations for successful implementation of bioenergy producing platforms from algae are summarized throughout this report.

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